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Saudi fund wins respite from questioning in PGA-LIV golf battle but Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia interviewed

SAN JOSE – Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund can hold off on providing evidence in the antitrust battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf while a US appeals court decides whether they must participate in the case, a judge said.

Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, are asking the appeals court to overturn a United States magistrate judge’s February ruling that requires them to testify under oath and produce documents to the PGA Tour. 

US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said in a ruling on Wednesday that the fund and its chief “will be irreparably harmed” if pre-trial information sharing, known as discovery, isn’t temporarily halted, while the PGA Tour will not be “substantially injured.” 

Freeman also denied the PGA Tour’s request to pause gathering of all evidence in the case as PIF’s appeal plays out, agreeing with LIV that keeping that process going is necessary help preserve evidence.

“Memories fade, and documents may disappear over time,” Freeman wrote. “Thus, a full halt of discovery would harm the litigation process.”

A representative of LIV declined to comment. The PGA Tour didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

LIV sued the PGA Tour last year for allegedly engaging in monopolistic behaviour by using restrictive rules intended to deprive golfers from playing in rival leagues. The PGA sought subpoenas to gather additional material to support its claims in its countersuit that LIV illegally pushed players to break contracts with the legacy US-based tour by offering them exorbitant sums of money. 

Attorneys for the Saudi fund had argued that sovereign immunity shields PIF and Al-Rumayyan from providing evidence in US courts. But US Magistrate Judge Susan Van Keulen ruled in favour of the PGA Tour, which said commercial activities are excluded from sovereign immunity protection under US law.

However, the Justice Department’s antitrust inquiry has included interviews with players, including Major winners Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia.

The department, which has been conducting its investigation since at least last summer, has also explored the spectre of collusion in the Official World Golf Ranking and the tight-knit relationships between the leaders of the PGA Tour and the distinct organisations that stage the US Masters, the PGA Championship and the US Open.

Representatives for Mickelson and DeChambeau declined to comment. A representative for Garcia did not respond to messages requesting comment.

LIV declined to comment. But the league’s commissioner, Greg Norman, publicly hinted in March at the circuit’s cooperation with the Justice Department investigation. BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES